Friday 30 September 2016

What I Wish I’d Known Before I Started - Think about the customer, and then do it again

Published 31/05/2015 | 02:30

BEST NEW PRODUCT: ‘I wish I’d known just how satisfying it is to create and launch something,’ says Dermot Hanley
BEST NEW PRODUCT: ‘I wish I’d known just how satisfying it is to create and launch something,’ says Dermot Hanley

Dermot Hanley is founder of Nusli, the company behind a new food that's a combination of yogurt, whole-grains, fruit pieces, almonds, hazelnuts and apple juice.

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Nusli launched last year - and won 'Best New Product' at the 2014 Irish Food Awards.

Prior to founding Nusli, Dermot worked for almost 20 years as an investment banker in such areas as capital markets, high yield debt, and private equity. The name Nusli is derived from a combination of the Swiss-German 'muesli' and 'nus' (or nut) and new.

Dermot has a few things to share about starting in business.

"There is a huge community of entrepreneurs out there who are willing to share their advice and support. Make sure that you take advantage of that.

"Everyone has been on the same journey and understands the journey you are on. This is hugely helpful and will help you avoid mistakes and keep you going. Starting something new can often be a lonely experience and this is your community, profit from it and, more importantly, give back to it.

"Every new business must think about the customer and then think about them again. In many cases the customer can be at multiple levels - for Nusli the end customer is important -but also of critical importance is the buyer at the retail chain, the manager of the store who has to stick with it and the person who helps put it on shelves - how they interact is key. After all, unless all these constituencies are thought about and looked after, and Nusli is on shelves, not enough people will get to taste the product.

"Make sure you have the right support around you - friends, partners, family and so on. Transition and change is difficult even if you have a great idea and a great plan.

"Remember: distribution, distribution, distribution! It is so important. Volume doesn't grow in nice pallet size lots. There is a minimum charge per pallet, a pallet of Nusli plus one box costs twice as much to ship as one pallet of Nusli. Customers and retailers want the product as often as possible.

"This is particularly the case if you have ambitions for overseas growth and have short shelf life products.

"And everything takes longer than you expect it to. When I was doing transactions there was usually a deadline and the size was big enough to capture interest. When you are starting your own business, no one cares as much as you. The old cliche of it takes twice as long and costs twice as much is a cliche for a reason.

"I wish I had known how satisfying it is to create and launch something. I get e-mails and calls from people on a regular basis saying how much they love Nusli - if I'd known how good that feels I would have launched a new business years ago.

"And I wish I'd known how important it is to celebrate success. When we launched I was so busy I didn't get to drink the bottle of champagne I had set aside. And when we won the best new food product award it kind of interfered with my annual surfing trip to Dingle.

"There are enough down days in this process - success keeps you going."

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